TIFA to finance bathhouse renovation

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 15, 2019

File photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The bathhouse at Blossom Heath Park should look different by the end of summer.

Members of the Tax Increment Finance Authority, or TIFA, voted March 12 to award a $1.2 million contract to renovate the bathhouse at Blossom Heath Park to Rick Fromm Co. LLC.

While TIFA initially was planning to finance the project through bonds, Chair Richard Widgren said that they now have enough cash to pay for the project without financing.

With a beginning fund balance of more than $973,000 and an ongoing influx of cash from captured tax revenues, “We have enough cash in the bank to actually do a project at $1.2 million,” he said at TIFA’s March 12 meeting.

The project will straddle two fiscal years, 2019 and 2020, meaning that a portion of the work can be paid for with money in the bank, while the remaining balance can be paid once taxes are collected in the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The project will renovate the bathhouse at Blossom Heath Park: cleaning up the lead paint, reconfiguring the current bathrooms, installing new family bathrooms, redoing the roof and turning one-third of the roof into an observation deck that will allow visitors to see the lake. An alternate that was also put out to bid called for a glass enclosure around a portion of the overhanging roof to be used on a seasonal basis.

Initial projections had put the cost of the project, with the alternate, closer to $800,000.

Although the bids came in higher than expected, Assistant City Manager Bill Gambill said that the bids were all in the same range, which he said was an indication of good bid specifications.

Rick Fromm Co. LLC initially proposed taking 210 days for the project, but when the company was informed that the city was hoping to have it completed this summer, it was able to condense the timeline down to 134, including 10 contingency days. The company will begin construction April 1, hoping to finish the project by Aug. 12.

Gambill said that the company is only working on one other job at the moment, so company officials are comfortable with the timeline.

The park will be open during construction, and City Manager Mike Smith said that the construction will be contained east of the playground, although the bathrooms will be closed during construction. He said the city will have more portable toilets stationed at the park to meet demand during events.

Donna Flaherty, a member of TIFA and the owner of Gifts Afloat, said that they decided to move the annual Aqua Fest, typically held in July, to mid-August so that the construction will hopefully be completed before the festival, which includes many festivities held in the park.

Smith said that the next-highest bidder would have the project done about a month earlier, but would cost an additional $40,000.

“The architect has worked with both groups (and is) confident they’re going to perform in a manner they say they’re going to perform,” he said.

Although the price is higher than expected, Smith said that, “We’ve kicked the can down the road far enough and long enough on this bathroom project.

“This, I think, is a particularly important project for the district and the area.”

Widgren said that there is enough cash flow in the TIFA account to be able to finance the project without having to go out for bonds to pay for it, which would increase the total cost of the project.

“We still have cash at the end of 2020,” he said, pointing out that by the end of the 2021 fiscal year, TIFA should have $391,000 back in its account.

“I think there’s enough wiggle room in what we’re doing. There’s every reason to expect that we can do this without having to borrow money,” he said.